Category Archives: ABEL

ABEL Leadership Summit: Creative Solutions

This week ABEL hosted another IMG_0916great Leadership Summit facilitated by the I-Think Initiative from the Rotman School of Management.  @nogahK, @cdfederico and @TerriMKC engaged our group in a day of learning around Integrative Thinking.  This was a day about taking risks, being open to new ways of thinking, diving deep into the box, sharing our ideas and learning how to approach problem solving with the tools of integrative thinking.

From sharing “juicy tidbits” in our lives to writing six-word stories, our journey of learning started with engaging ice-breakers that had [Summit - March 2015]_33participants take risks, while creating a safe environment for the day.  I can’t share the “juicy tidbits” from the group, but here are some of the six-word stories created based on what we love about the work we do – inspirational and positive!

  • Value relationships, learning together, epistemological expansion.
  • Listening to student voice; learning together.
  • Inspire, take risks and learn together.
  • Making connections, building confidence. “Ah ha” moments.
  • She thought. She worked. She learned.

So, what is Integrative Thinking? “[Integrative Thinking is] the ability to face constructively the tension of opposing models and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, to generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models but is superior to each.” – Roger Martin

IMG_0951It was explained the best by saying what it is NOT: It is NOT compromising; it is NOT negotiating, and it is NOT “out of the box” type solutions. It is finding the solution to your problem by diving really deep into the box to create something new.  You really need to understand the two opposing models, who the important stakeholders are, what are the pros of each model and then create a new model that encompasses the pros.  It is a different way of thinking for problem solving, but it is very structured in its approach. The process involves three steps: articulate the two opposing models; examine the models IMG_0961(pro-pro chart – love this!); and then, explore the possibilities of combining the benefits.

In the afternoon, the facilitators lead us through the process with current issues we are facing in our roles.  Some of the problems participants addressed were:

  • How can instructional coaches offer meaningful support for their district?  Mandated top down versus full autonomy – only do what they are told or do whatever they want?
  • How do we shift pedagogy? Status quo versus innovative practice?
  • How do we “move” a marginalized school? Action plan implemented by school board versus action plan created by staff?
  • How can we deliver PD with the goal to improve pedagogy? Teacher driven versus board driven?
  • When professional learning is offered to schools, what does the principal do? Breadth versus depth – principal is OPEN to all opportunities versus principal FILTERS the opportunities to focus on a few targets.

IMG_0958There certainly was a theme to the problems we face and when the sharing occurred at the end of the day, we could see ourselves trying to solve any of these problems.

Thanks Nogah, Terri and Christopher for a great day!

For more pics, you can go to our Facebook photo album.

A post would not be a post without my funIMG_0910 pic and a conference would not be a conference without challenges.  We truly missed having Karen and Rola (@kmcevoy50 and @rolat) join us – they got stranded in Ottawa as flights were not landing in TO due to the weather.  It was not for lack of trying, as Karen tried to make it here with alternate plans.  See you in April at our next ABEL Leadership Summit: Innovation by Design 🙂



As I sit here in my office in the last week of June, I realize how quickly this year has passed.  The people I work with both in the office and across Ontario have made this year one of my best.  It has been one of my most memorable years as I one-way-640x420travelled to visit ALL of the LC districts!  I now look forward to my own travels in July to one of my dream vacations – Alaska.  Yup, I didn’t get enough ice this winter, so I thought I would travel to see some more.

This blog has meant a lot to me and the fact that I actually kept up with my postings.  For most people, the challenge for keeping a blog would be to find the time to write.  And although this was definitely a challenge for me as well, I had to overcome an even greater challenge of being able to write.  Let me explain.  It took me a year of talking about writing a blog (I don’t think this is uncommon), but the thought of having to write made me terribly nervous and anxious.  Then I had a great conversation with Dean Shareski (he probably doesn’t even remember this talk we had about two years ago).  He was so understanding about my fears and suggested some ways around them.  Even though I don’t think I used any of his suggestions (sorry Dean, don’t be offended), his talk did inspire me and I still think about our chat when I sit down to write.   It still took my another year actually post to a blog.  Let me explain further, my anxiety around writing is very much like other peoples ‘math phobias’.  I feel that I just can’t do it and it is a great effort for me to write.  I remember when I started working part time with ABEL and the communications person would ask me to write a short article, I would break out in a cold sweat and it would take me hours to write a short paragraph.  It is still difficult for me to write, but I am coming to terms with it and persevere through my anxieties.  Sometimes the people in my office hear me say “Just give me a physics or math problem…I don’t want to write anymore!”  Hahahaha.

I am so proud that I made the goal to blog this year and even prouder that I kept up with it – pat self on back.  If you are reading this (and it always surprises me when I hear that someone reads my blog – oh my), I encourage you to set a goal, work on keeping your goal and then reap the rewards of succeeding with your goal.  I have set my new goals for work and personal:

  • read more professional articles – any suggestions how to manage electronic resources to read?
  • post more on Twitter when I visit districts to engage more people in Learning Connections
  • enter a triathlon before I am 50, this give me a year to succeed:) – if Purple Running Manonly I could run…I have started, but can only make it 2k and I have only done this once.

What are your goals? Have a happy, healthy and safe summer.  Think of me amongst the ice in Alaska and trying to run.

ABEL Leadership Summit: I-Think

Tired and back at the office after a successful ABEL Leadership Summit!


What a great day we had yesterday at the MaRS Centre for our summit on Cultivating an Opposable Mind: An Introduction to Integrative Thinking facilitated by Rotman School of Management.  

Our facilitators Ellie Avishai (@EllieAvishai) and Nogah Kornberg (@nogahK) were amazing.  They were engaging, informative, knowledgeable and full of energy – loved the “shake down” to get the blood flowing after lunch.  They provided activities for the delegates throughout the day and kept the buzz in the room at a very high level.

The day started with an overview of Integrative Thinking and how innovation can come from a different way of thinking.  They shared inspirational ideas and the voice of educators:

“What Integrative Thinking offers is an approach to problem solving that, instead of getting overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues, is hopeful about what it possible”  Maria, Middle School Teacher.


The morning ended with a large group activity exploring the opposing model of institutional/ traditional school versus online learning.  A problem faced by Taddy Blecher in Post-Apartheid South Africa.  This exercise set the stage for the participants to face their own opposing models in the afternoon.

The afternoon was spent working through the Integrative Thinking


Process:  Articulate the Models, Examine the Models, Explore the Possibilities and Assessing the Prototypes.  It was difficult to get the group to take a break as deep discussions occurred straight through to the end of the day!

Throughout the day, we were also treated to short presentations by EdTech Ventures from the Education Cluster at the MaRS Discovery MARS imagesDistrict.  Joseph Wilson (@joeatmars) arranged two vignettes of ventures to present their products to our group.   It was exciting to see some of the new and innovative applications that are coming out of Ontario.  Check out the list of ventures that participated.

My experience yesterday has left me with a very positive way of thinking. I learned how you can look at complex problems of opposing models and redefine that problem in such a way that can lead to more innovative and creative solutions.

I would like to send a huge thanks to my team at the ABEL Program Office, who helped make this event run smoothly at every turn.